You could choke every horse in South America with the amount of supposed “thought leadership” written on B2B lead generation in the last 5-10 years, with most of it being pretty fluffy. It’s usually 35,000-foot stuff that would be hard for a sales team to then execute on. (Or a marketing team, if they’re handling the B2B lead generation side.)
But now we have some research. Why don’t we see what that tells us?
B2B Lead Generation Principle No. 1: Focus on UX before thought leadership
Look at this graphic; it’s from a B2B buyer’s survey done by DemandBase:
If you look for the blue sections — what B2B buyers are saying is important to them — then far and away, this is what buyers really want:
- Easy search navigation and tools
- Easy access to content
- Easy access to pricing/competitive info
This makes sense. B2B buyers are busy. Who wants a bunch of white papers (thought leadership) when you’re probably researching 12-15 different options?
You want quick and easy search with transparent pricing info. You want to find the info you need (91% view as important) as opposed to being asked to give your email in exchange for an eBook (76%).
This rolls up with other research about online B2B lead generation: it’s really more about ease of use and interface than any overall “strategy” you put in place. Focus on making your site easy to use and navigate for potential customers. The thought leadership component is less important, at least per this research.
What’s the role of digital in B2B lead generation right now?
This is an oft-debated question, usually around whether cold calling is dead or not. (Personally BizXpand does not believe it is dead.)
Hubspot did some recent-ish research on “buyers saying how sales needs to evolve,” and this chart stands out:
In fairness, we have been seeing this research for years — Forrester has seemingly been saying for a decade that B2B marketing and sales will fade out because of self-service portals and better websites with clearer information.
We also have research directly from Google about how 90% of B2B buyers do research online, doing an average of 12 searches before engaging with a company website.
The short answer here, of course, is that digital plays a big role in B2B (inbound) lead generation. Digital/mobile are pervasive. We do most actions throughout a day from a laptop or phone. Obviously lead generation specialists need to be reaching those areas, whether that’s through organic content (there is quite a bit of it, though), Google ads, social ads, or other approaches.
The funnel issue
B2B sales and marketing isn’t going to “die” anytime soon, but what has changed somewhat drastically in the last 10-15 years is that the availability of research online means prospects enter a B2B lead generation funnel at a much later stage.
15 years ago, everyone would have entered near the top of the funnel.
That’s not even remotely true anymore.
This creates a little bit (OK, a lot) of an issue in situations where sales teams and marketing teams have to work directly together. The communication between sales and marketing has never been great in companies (different silos, different incentives), and now there is a need to have content and sales collateral to meet all funnel stages all the time. Oftentimes it can create fights between sales and marketing. That’s one reason you should outsource in the beginning; you can bake sales and marketing together in the sense of your outsourcing partners determining product-market fit and messaging before issues arise.
How can a B2B lead generation specialist stand out today?
The main way is the main way any sales principal can stand out: know your buyer.
If you know your buyer, you can design attractive options for them (inbound) — or know how to track them down for an initial call (outbound). It’s that simple.
The second most important aspect of B2B lead generation in modern business is asking intelligent questions. Business models are shifting all the time. (“Pivots.”) Buyers have bosses whose needs and priorities are changing maybe hourly. When you’re trying to generate leads, you need to acknowledge and speak to that.
One of the major challenges for a buyer/manager in today’s B2B ecosystem is balancing busyness, workload, and shifting priorities. If your solution seems as if it can help with that, that actually may be the best B2B lead generation tool of all.